By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Bagong Henerasyon (BH) Party List Rep. Bernadette Herrera has batted for the passage of bill making child marriage as a public crime.
She made the call, as the nation observes the National Women’s Month this March.
“Child, early, and forced marriages pose risks and have serious impacts on the health and development of women and girls. Child marriage is a grave form of violence against women and girls, and we must put an end to this vile practice,” Herrera said in a statement.
Citing the 2017 data of the United Nations Children’s Fund, she noted that
about 15 percent of Filipino women, entered a union before turning 18.
“Married girls will most likely drop out of school and lose their chance of getting educated, gaining a decent job, and earning for herself and her family. Child brides are also the most common victims of domestic abuse and violence,” Herrera said.
Citing various studies, she said adolescent mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die of pregnancy and childbirth complications compared to women between the ages of 20 and 24.
The children of teen mothers are also twice as likely to die as a child of a woman in her 20s, she said.
The former chairperson of the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality said child marriage violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Philippines ratified in 1990.
She noted that the Family Code of the Philippines sets the legal age of marriage at 18 years old and above, and highlights that consent must be freely given by both parties. Muslim minors, however, are an exception, she added.
Herrera also cited that Presidential Decree No. 1083, or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, sets a lower age for marriage–15 years old for male and 12 years old for females, as long as she has reached puberty.
“Despite international and local legal frameworks, child, early, and forced marriages are still a growing trend in the Philippines especially in indigenous communities. To stop this form of abuse and exploitation, we should strengthen the implementation of the Family Code and repeal contradictory laws,” she said.
Herrera is pushing for the final passage of House Bill No. 1486, which provides that child marriage, as well as its facilitation and solemnization, shall be considered public crimes.
The bill penalizes the solemnizing officers and parents or guardians who arranged, facilitated and consented to a child marriage.
The adult who contracted a child marriage with a minor aged 12 and below shall be meted with a penalty of imprisonment.
HB 1486 mandates government agencies to create programs that will address the prevalence of child marriage and provide appropriate services to children who were forced to enter into marriage.
“Marriage should be entered into only with free and full consent of the intending spouses,” Herrera said.
“Karapatan ng bawat Pilipina, kapag siya ay nasa tamang edad na, na magdesisyon kung sino at kailan niya gustong magpakasal. Hindi ito dapat dinidikta o pinupwersa ng mga magulang o ng sinuman, lalo na sa ating mga kabataan,” she added.
(It is the right of every Filipina, when she reaches the right age, to decide on who to marry and when to marry. This should not be dictated or forced by her parents or anyone, especially on our youth.)